22 Fun facts About New York City That Will Surprise You


7 min read
An aerial view of Manhattan with skyscrapers under a blue sky
There are many unique facts to learn about New York City!

New York City, in New York State, is a fascinating destination. It's frequently listed as one of the best locations in the world to travel to and is home to a multitude of landmarks.

While NYC is commonly associated with Manhattan, the area comprises five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx.

All five boroughs have their own quirks and feature an array of exciting attractions. The city also has a rich history and culture, resulting in the creation of various fun facts about New York City.

Whether you're a first-time visitor to NYC or have lived there all your life, you're sure to be surprised by these 22 NYC facts!

  • 22 facts

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22 New York City Fun Facts

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A subway car on the platform with New York City Subway sign
The NYC subway system is the largest of its kind in the world

The NYC Subway System is the largest in the world

The New York City subway system is not only the largest rapid transport system in the United States, but it’s also the largest in the world. It features 472 stations that reach all five boroughs, and this quick and easy-to-use form of public transport is a lifeline to the majority of New Yorkers.

The subway system also holds the title of being the busiest rapid transport system in the Western hemisphere.

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A stone lion outside of the stone New York Public Library in NYC
You can find over 50 million books within the New York Public Library system

The New York Public Library houses over 50 million books

The New York Public Library houses more than 50 million books (55 million at last count) across its multiple libraries. The library system is also the second-largest in the US after the Library of Congress.

Along with books, the New York Public Library has various other literary artifacts and even locks of hair from writers like Walt Whitman!

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A stone Grand Central Terminal sign with clock and statue above it
Grand Central Terminal has a unique whispering gallery to check out

The Grand Central Terminal features a “whispering gallery”

Another of the interesting facts about NYC is that the iconic Grand Central Terminal has a “whispering gallery.” Within this area of the station, people can stand on opposite diagonal corners and hear messages whispered to each other.

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A straight path with green trees and a small fence on either side
The Central Park Mall features one of the only straight paths in the park

The Central Park Mall is the only straight path in the park

Central Park is a popular and romantic place to visit in NYC. But did you know that only one of the paths within the park, the Central Park Mall, is straight? Interestingly, this path was created this way as a catwalk for the wealthy to stroll down and show off their luxurious and expensive attire.

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The Empire State Building surrounded by skyscrapers under a blue sky
The iconic Empire State Building gets hit by lightning over 20 times a year

The Empire State Building is struck by lighting at least 23 times a year

The Empire State Building is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world and attracts millions of visitors a year. But a fact few know is that the building gets hit by lighting 23 plus times a year. Luckily, the building is engineered to withstand lightning bolts with minimal to no damage occurring.

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The first underground park was built in NYC

Many people know of the Highline, Manhattan’s elevated park. But did you know that NYC is also home to the world’s first underground park, called the Lowline?

The park is located on Manhattan’s West Side and features a unique subterranean green space. Unfortunately, a lack of funds that has affected completion means that the park is not currently open to the public.

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One of many fun facts about New York City is that you can spot 230 bird species
One of the fun facts about New York City is that 230 bird species can be seen there

Over a quarter of North American bird species are found in NYC

North America is home to about 800 bird species, and approximately 230 of those species have been spotted in New York City, across the five boroughs. The majority of the birds have been seen in Central Park, making it an incredible bird-watching location.

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A brick covered building with arched windows and an American flag
The NYC Federal Reserve Bank holds the largest store of gold in the world

The New York City Federal Reserve Bank has the world's largest gold storage

Located in Lower Manhattan in the Financial District, the New York City Federal Reserve holds the world’s largest gold storage. Over 7,000 tons of gold bars, costing approximately $90 billion, are held within the bank in a vault that sits 80-feet below ground.

This amount of gold equates to five percent of the world’s mined gold. Interestingly, you can view the store for yourself on a tour of the bank!

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An image of a harbor from a bridge with a suspension bridge in the background
It was so cold in 1780 that the New York Harbor froze

The New York Harbor once completely froze over

One of the little known facts about New York City is that the New York Harbor froze over completely during a period of significant cold in 1780. People even took to ice skating on the water and you could supposedly walk to Staten Island across the ice!

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An NYC pizzeria with a red Best Pizza sign above the door
The cost of a slice of NYC pizza may correlate to the price of a subway ticket

The Pizza Principle correlates subway fares to pizza prices!

One of the super fun facts about NYC relates to the Pizza Principle, also known as the Pizza-Subway Connection. This theory states that one slice of pizza has consistently equated to the price of a subway ticket since the 1960s.

It seems as though as the price of a slice rises, or falls, a one-way subway fare rises or falls by the same amount.

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A white and purple ice cream truck with signage next to an NYC subway sign
The ice cream cone was created in New York City in the 19th century

The ice cream cone was invented in New York City

Who doesn’t love an ice cream cone? While everyone has tried this yummy dessert, few know that the ice cream cone was invented in New York City. It was created by Italo Marchiony in the late-1800s. He patented the treat in December 1903.

While the patent meant that Marchiony is the official inventor of the ice cream cone, other individuals, such as a St. Louis Resident and several Europeans, are said to have created a similar treat around the time Italo Marchiony did.

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NYC is the most linguistically diverse city in the world

One of the most amazing facts about New York City is that it’s the most linguistically diverse city in the world. New Yorkers speak over 800 languages, and four in ten households speak at least one language other than English.

After English, the top spoken languages are Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Italian. Of the five boroughs, Queens is the most linguistically diverse neighborhood, not just in NYC but in the world.

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Aerial view of a bridge, river, and city with a park and power generating station
Queens holds the title of being the world's most ethnically diverse urban place

Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world

The NYC borough of Queens holds the title as the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world. Not only is it the most linguistically diverse neighborhood in the world, but it’s also home to citizens of many races and ethnicities, with about 48% of residents being foreign-born.

In addition, no racial or ethnic group contributes a 50% majority in the area.

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Times Square with illuminated billboards on buildings and taxi cabs on the street
Times Square got its name from the New York Times in the early 1900s

Times Square is named after the New York Times

Most people have heard of Times Square and of the New York Times, but few know that the NYC nighttime hotspot was named after the famous newspaper. Before the New York Times moved their offices to “Times Square” in 1905, the area was called Longacre Square.

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The Brooklyn Bridge suspension bridge over water with city skyline to one side
NYC's iconic Brooklyn Bridge is 11 years older than London's Tower Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is older than London’s Tower Bridge

Being located in a much “older” country, it’s understandable that most would assume that London’s historic Tower Bridge is older than New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.

However, that’s not the case! The North American landmark, opened in 1883 whereas Tower Bridge opened in 1894, making the Brooklyn Bridge 11 years older.

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Staten Island wanted to secede from New York City

Visiting Staten Island, one of the five boroughs, is a fun and non-touristy thing to do when in NYC. However, the suburban island didn’t always want to be part of New York City.

In 1993, Staten Island residents voted to secede from the other four boroughs. However, this didn’t happen with new mayor Rudy Giuliani appeasing residents and convincing them to remain part of NYC.

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An illuminated Christmas tree with angel decorations in front of it
Although the most famous, the Rockefeller tree lighting was not the first in NYC

Madison Square Park and Washington Square Park had the first public Christmas trees

The lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is a much-loved New York City tradition. However, another of the fun facts about NYC is that Rockefeller Center was not the first to host this tradition.

In 1912, Madison Square Park was the first to host a public tree lighting followed by Washington Square Park in 1924. Rockefeller Center didn’t start a public Christmas tree lighting until 1931. You can still witness all three tree lightings today.

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The Statue of Liberty standing on an island with trees either side and water in front
The Statue of Liberty is one of the US' most visited attractions

NYC is home to many of the most visited tourist attractions in the US

Unsurprisingly, another of many New York City facts is that the city features some of the US’ most visited tourist attractions. Of the 25 most visited attractions in the US, NYC’s top five are Times Square, Central Park, Grand Central Station, South Street Seaport, and the Statue of Liberty.

Landmarks such as the Empire State building fall further down the list. These five top attractions also feature as some of the most visited in the World.

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A tall mirrored skyscraper with smaller skyscrapers surrounding it and water in front
One World Trade Center is one of the tallest buildings in the world

The World Trade Center is the Western Hemisphere's second tallest building

The new One World Trade Center holds the title of the Western Hemisphere’s second-tallest building, behind the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.

Standing at 541-meters tall, the World Trade Center is additionally the sixth tallest building in the world and the tallest building in the US.

Before its destruction on September 11, 2001, the original World Trade Center, or Twin Towers, also held the record of being one of the tallest buildings in the world.

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A stone building with New York Stock Exchange sign and an American flag
The New York Stock Exchange is the most important stock exchange in the world

The New York Stock Exchange is the largest stock exchange in the world

Located on Wall Street, the iconic New York Stock Exchange is the world’s largest. The United State’s NASDAQ sits one place behind the NYSE at second place.

The NYSE held an equity market capitalization of more than $26.6 trillion at last valuation and is part of the 16 world stock exchanges that make up the “$1 Trillion Club.”

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New York City was originally called New Amsterdam

In 1626, a Dutch colony inhabited what is now New York City and named the area New Amsterdam. That name stuck until King Charles II won the territory in 1664 and gifted it to his brother, the Duke of York, who renamed the area as "New York".

Later, the state became known as New York and the five boroughs took on the collective name of New York City.

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A stone building with columns and American flags and a Wall Street sign to the side
Wall Street got its name from a Dutch colony in the 1660s

Wall Street was also named by the Dutch

Wall Street is now synonymous with large finance firms, billion-dollar trades, and well-paid employees. But, the financial hotspot takes its name from the Dutch.

After naming the area of NYC “New Amsterdam," the Dutch colony named the area where Wall Street now sits, Waal Straat. Supposedly due to it being surrounded by a wall to protect the settlement from British invasion.

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In Summary

New York City is an iconic destination packed with landmarks and attractions. Due to the city's extensive history and rich culture, you can discover a multitude of fun facts about NYC. Hopefully, the above interesting facts taught you something new about this wonderful part of the United States!

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell WRITER Currently based in Canada, I've also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and travelled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. I love finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever I go!